In an interesting move, Germany’s Condor is buying Airbus A330neo widebodies, to replace its Boeing 767 fleet, deciding against the 787.
Re-fleeting appears to be a popular theme, lately. Perhaps after over a year of forced idleness, airlines are now getting back to normal. The pandemic is far from over, but airlines have to prepare for the light at the end of the tunnel. But they need to do so, after suffering the consequences of the pandemic. And on the flip side, they need to look for opportunities emerging in the pandemic, too.
Condor and Airbus announced that the airline will get 16 A330neo aircraft, for their widebody needs. The airline currently has 15 Boeing 767s. They also have 22 aircraft of the A320 family (all ceos), plus 13 older Boeing 757s. So there is more scope for orders in the airline, this time single-aisles. Their A321s (10 of them) aren’t too old, but the A320s (12) are nearly as old as the 757s.
Condor – A Ready Supply of A330neo Aircraft?
Airbus is producing only a handful of these widebodies per month, with more production capacity going to the A350. Still, deliveries of the new A330neo fleet for Condor will be relatively quick. The first of the jets will arrive in autumn 2022. And the conclusion of deliveries, along with the 767 retirements, will happen by mid-2024.
With a fleet split between Airbus and Boeing, Condor choosing the A330neo might look like a loss for Boeing. But there are some special circumstances in this case. Condor got a bailout worth 525.3 million euros from Germany, just a day before the announcement of this order. Officially, the two events aren’t connected. But there could well have been some strong reactions if such an order went… elsewhere.
However, there could well be more factors here, influencing Condor’s choice of the Airbus A330neo. Again, the first of these jets will arrive quite soon. This is because out of the sixteen aircraft, seven are white-tails. They are A330neos for AirAsia X in Malaysia, and Indonesia’s Garuda. Condor could well have gotten substantial discounts for these jets. The remaining nine aircraft will come from lessors. All jets are A330-900 models.
The Plane That Nobody Wanted
The A330neo is an interesting aircraft, in some ways. Originally, Airbus wanted to use an updated A330, to respond to the challenge of the then-upcoming Boeing 787. Airlines and lessors balked at the idea. They thought the A330 was too old, essentially inheriting its design from the 1970s A300. They needed something fresh, a clean-sheet design. Airbus relented, and that’s how we got the A350.
And then, Airbus made that updated A330 anyway. It didn’t have an all-new wing, per the original design, just an updated one (with A350-inspired winglets) and new engines. The result? They are selling like hotcakes! Critics of the A350 say that this jet is optimized for truly long, long-haul trips. By contrast, the A330neo also works great for shorter medium-haul hops – the kind a leisure operator like Condor might do.
That’s why the type remains popular with dense-traffic, medium-haul operators in Asia. The 767 may have beat the A330 in the freighter world. But with operators like Condor, we could still see some orders for the A330neo, in the future. Ironically, the aircraft’s biggest competitor might be a fleet of cheap-to-lease, second-hand A330ceos, as we saw previously.